Violence and politics, always a Duval County staple

James O. Luby

While doing research for a Civil War paper I am working on, I have been researching Nueces County Commissioner Court minutes to see how Tejanos were involved in the political life of their county during the conflict between the North and South. Duval County was not yet organized and was attached to Nueces County.

Recently, I ran across a trove of names that will, no doubt, be a small mine for genealogists. What is also interesting, is that I was able to connect several of the names to other research I have done, which contributes for a more meaningful story rather than just names.

James O. Luby

In 1874, James Luby was the Justice of the Peace for Nueces County Precinct 3, which included San Diego and the surrounding area. First, I should point out that under state law during Reconstruction “police courts” oversaw county operations. Instead of a County Judge and Commissioners, five Justices ofthe Peace ran the county.

At the court’s Jan. 31, 1874 meeting, N.G. Collins, E. A. Glover and Fernando ?Lane? were named to the Nueces County Grand Jury.

At the same meeting, Judge Luby filed a number of claims to the court for reimbursement, including the following:

  • for inquest of the body of Juan Peña on Aug. 28, 1873;
  • for inquest of Hermenegildo Gomez on Nov. 15, 1873;
  • for Apolonio Torres on Dec. 12, 1873;
  • for a man named Marcelino (no last name given) on Dec. 10, 1873;
  • for the bodies of seven men, Filomeno Rios and six others (no date given);
  • for Evaristo ?Nabores? on Nov. 8, 1873; and
  • for Pedro Lopez on Jan. 1, 1874.

Three months earlier, the Corpus Christi Gazette had reported that a man had been found about two miles from San Diego hanging to a mesquite tree, “with two hides barely skinned lying near him.” The newspaper said the body had been recognized as being that of Juan Peña. The tracks of six horses near where Peña was found and a piece of paper was found with the words ‘How is that for ????’” The last word was undecipherable in the old newspaper.

Two months before, on Nov. 20, 1873, the newspaper reported that at the Rancho Guajillo Hermenegildo Gomez, a Spaniard and resident of San Luis Potosi, was killed by a young Mexican by the name of Chapa. The newspaper reported Gomez had gained the affections of the daughter of Antonio Chapa, and had secured her promise of marriage. While young beau was away, the girl’s father arranged the girl’s betrothal to another. When Gomez returned he found the plans for the wedding well underway, which made him extremely angry.

Gomez asked to be allowed to say goodbye to the fair maiden. While at the Chapa’s home, a shot was heard followed by a woman’s scream. Gomez started to make his getaway on his mare, but was cut down by a shot from the girl’s brother. At his goodbyes, Gomez had drawn a pistol and shot the father, Antonio Chapa, inflicting a serious wound. “Chapa’s son,” the Gazette reported, “squared accounts with him in a rather unceremonious manner, and a funeral instead of a wedding was the consequence.”

Apparently the death of seven men was not that uncommon in December 1873 in the area around San Diego, so “Filomeno Rios and six others” found dead could have been one of two groups of men. The first incident involved the killing of seven pastores employed by Toribio Lozano, at a rancho 15 miles north of San Diego. Or, they could have been the seven men found hung for which Luby was on his way to hold an inquest when he was intercepted by news that his brother-in-law had been shot with six arrows at the Gravis Rancho.

Judge Luby also submitted claims for court costs in the cases, styled The State of Texas vs. Salome Maldonado; Cenobio Aguilar; Eliseo Cantu; Alberto Solis; and F. Rios. While the crimes for which they were charge were not mentioned, F. Rios could have been one of the seven found hung, for which an inquest was performed.

Luby also certified the claim from Apolonio Vela for arresting and transporting Juan de Dios Garcia to county jail, while he served as a Special Constable for Pct. 3. Vela was elected Constable in 1876 and in 1885 a man by the same man was arrested on suspicion of horse theft.

Finally, Luby certified claim forms for the presiding judges for the Dec. 2, 1873 General Election, including: W.B. Lacy, George Hobbs, T.W. Johnson, P.B. Baldesweiler, and Special Policemen for the election A.G. Allen and George Pettigrew. Interestingly, in a county that counted nine Anglos in the 1870 census and 771 Tejanos, not one of the election judges or special election police were Tejanos. Indeed, none of these men were even living in Duval County four years before when the census was taken. For that matter, neither was Luby.

27 Comments on "Violence and politics, always a Duval County staple"

  1. Juan P. Castro | October 25, 2017 at 8:28 am | Reply

    Alfredo thank you for this information, it adds to our learning about the past that is still important today.

  2. alfredo@mcmbooks.com | October 25, 2017 at 9:46 am | Reply

    Thank you Juan, I agree.

    • Dora S Bearden | October 26, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Reply

      I enjoy reading your info about Duval County. How can I get your book? My maiden name was Dora Stella Luna

      • alfredo@mcmbooks.com | October 26, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Reply

        Thank you Dora. You can get my book here: http://www.soydeduval.com/store/ or at Amazon.

        • As far as I know there was no kinship between the Lubys, Hoffmans, & the Gravis family. Friends, yes. I grew up across the street from M/M Gravis (elder)& their
          daughter Lela Wright lived next door. As far as a brother in law, James O Luby had
          three, there was Norman Collins, Charles Hoffman, & there was an older sister to Mrs.
          Luby & Mrs. Collins I think her name may have been Olivia, she & her husband died
          very young & Annie Hoffman Collins reared their children. Now, all of my records are
          in storage in Idaho & I am wintering back in San Diego. It has not been a happy time.
          Annie Hoffman

          • alfredo@mcmbooks.com | November 12, 2017 at 9:23 pm |

            Thank you for this information. The newspaper may have meant one of Gravis brother in laws.

  3. Wow, sad for what our people went through.

  4. alfredo@mcmbooks.com | October 25, 2017 at 10:31 am | Reply

    Yes Mary, they were rough times.

  5. Juan Alejandro | October 25, 2017 at 10:49 am | Reply

    Sad but very important that you provided the history… thank you very much!!

  6. Rachel Bazan -Shipp | October 25, 2017 at 11:56 am | Reply

    Interesting information! Thank you for doing the work you do. I’ve always been a history geek!

  7. Distressing accounts of violence against our people in those times. Plenty of inquests but no chance of cases to be heard. I appreciate your research.

  8. Very interesting history and research regarding San Diego and the surrounding areas of Duval. Who would have ever thought that the “Wild West” had a foothold in Duval county!

    • alfredo@mcmbooks.com | October 25, 2017 at 8:07 pm | Reply

      Oh yes, it was part of the wild west for sure. Incidentally, the seven pastores found dead were probably killed in an Indian raid.

      • There were Mexican bandits during that time as well that accounted for the murder of ranchers and their workers. The deaths of 7 people at a time would more than likely be their doing, if not the Indians doing.

  9. Who was the brother in law of Judge Luby (shot with 6 arrows)?
    Thanks, Annie

  10. I always heard my great-grandfather moved to San Diego in 1867 (100 years before I was born)to become post master when he was 21 years old. I would think that he would have been included in the 1870 census.

    • alfredo@mcmbooks.com | October 26, 2017 at 11:09 am | Reply

      Perhaps he was out of town when they took the census. We have used the 1867 year before but I doubled checked the census and he does not appear in San Diego.

      • He and N.G. had a merchant operation at the old Fort Ewell site. Could have possibly been there? Or at one of the ranches? I know he was post master in San Diego at that time though.

      • A better statement would have been they were not included in the census instead of not living in Duval County.

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